Traveling by Ferry in the San Juan Islands, Washington
Six months. Six long, adventurous, exciting, and family filled months. I can hardly believe that it’s been six months since we pulled our green VW Eurovan out of my parents’ driveway in New York and embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. And here we are, six months later, living out of a different vehicle, clear across the continent in the damp woods of Oregon. My thoughts of having a place to call home, cooking healthful meals with a full indoor kitchen, and starting a garden with the little guy have begun to increase lately. We still have lots more to explore, but I’m equally excited about our post-travel adventures.
Instead of writing about more of the lessons I’ve learned (and there are many), I thought I’d share the best two pieces of advice or words of wisdom that we received. The first was from my former boss, a fantastic mentor and friend who completely understood our motivation to take this sort of trip. When we were discussing the ins and outs of our travel while we were still in the preparation phase, he advised me that when we got to the point in our travels that we felt like we were done traveling, we should continue on traveling for another month. By doing this, we’d really learn if we were done traveling or if it was a temporary set-back that was making us feel that way. As a result, we’d never look back and wonder if we stopped traveling too soon. Such great advice, not just for our travels, but for anything we’re doing that we’re thinking of stopping or changing. This advice has helped me get through the down periods (and thankfully there haven’t been many), when I can’t take another wet night in a tent or another day of trying and failing to find healthful food.
The second was less advice and more words of wisdom from a dear friend from law school. She grew up in a small southern town in an area not known for its intellectualism or cultural diversity. This did not prevent her parents from finding a wonderful, like-minded group of friends in their local area. She passed along their words to me as we search for a new home: no matter where you are, you’ll always find your people. I may be paraphrasing this a bit, but it’s been one of the most reassuring nuggets of wisdom that I’ve heard during our travels. It has enabled me to put less pressure on myself to find just the right place to call home. There are many “just the right places” or maybe none at all, but either way, we’ll find our people. And isn’t that the most important part of finding a place to call home?
A potential home? Albeit, located in a ghost town. Details, details…
Yes, we’re traveling to explore, and camp, and hike, and check out the variety of grocery stores and laundromats that populate our country. But we’re also traveling to see if we spy a spot that we may one day call home. As this trip progresses, what we’re looking for becomes more clear to me. I expected this to happen as we saw more spots and had a better sense of what options are out there. But I think it’s really happening because I have more time to listen to myself and understand my reactions to a place. For example, I’ve always known that I’m a cold-weather gal. I like winter, I dislike really hot and humid summers, and I love snow. But spending time in the high desert, which is undeniably beautiful, made clear to me just how much I would go crazy living in such a hot and sunny locale. My mood changed noticeably (for the better) when we traveled away from places in which the blazing sun was rarely filtered by leaves or green or anything really. Clearly my sensitivities to weather are more pronounced on a trip where our home is nothing more than nylon sheet, but given that my preferred location does not have four walls, this is important information.
This is where you come in. As we spend more time on the road, we’d love any suggestions from our readers of places that we may want to consider. If we had to choose a place before traveling, it’s likely we would have wound up somewhere in Vermont or Western Massachusetts. To clue you in to what we’re looking for, I’ve put together a list of ideal characteristics for our new home (the original list was much longer, but Alan suggested I not bore you all to zzzzzzzz). I’m not naive (at least not all of the time); I know that we won’t find a place that meets all these ideals, but hopefully we’ll find a place that meets some of these and feels like home.
- Access to the outdoors is out our back door, or at least within biking distance. Ideally, I’d love to be able to get in a couple of mid-week after work hikes.
- In close proximity to mountains and water (lakes, rivers, whatever), and with places nearby to hike, bike, cross-country ski, kayak, etc.
- I do not want to live in the suburbs – I’ve spent much of my life there. I know that it works for some people, but I always feel like an imposter there and it never feels quite like home. Cities can be great, vibrant, diverse, beautiful places, but I’m just not a city person. I’m glad I know this about myself or I might still be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. What I do like are small towns, small cities (Burlington, VT and Bozeman, MT seem like the largest I’d like), or rural areas. In fact, I love rural areas near small cities or towns.
- An area that is welcoming to outsiders, or at least a place where it wouldn’t take us ten years to make friends because we didn’t grow up with everyone else.
- Cultural or intellectual outlets, be they art museums, lecture series, book readings, great classes, or something similar.
- A DIY ethic where folks put creation above consumption.
- Snow in the winter. And by snow, I mean real snow and lots of it.
- Access to quality locally grown produce and pastured meats and dairy.
- A place where people prioritize time over money and quality over quantity.
- A place where diversity of thought and opinions are common and embraced.
- A place that has good educational and recreational opportunities for our son, but not a place that is overrun with uber-competitive families on the quest to raise an Ivy-league grad.
- Somewhere with a strong sense of place. I’d prefer to live in a place, even if it is nearby to something bigger or more well-known, that has its own identity and culture and isn’t merely a footnote in the other place’s story.
So, with that modest list of qualities, any suggestions, folks?!?! Please comment below and let us know if you can think of any places that may fit the bill. Perhaps it will be the place we wind up calling home.